Richard Simpson Portfolios
This work has been made over a thirty year period, and most of the early images are very much in the documentary tradition, often recording human activities on the verge of change. Since I lived in Cumbria in those early years they are often essentially rural: hound trailing and Morecambe Bay net fishing, for example. More recent work fits more comfortably into a fine art tradition, referencing aesthetic traditions both western (the Golden Ratio is an enduring obsession) and Japanese, specifically mono no aware, since the sad beauty of impermanence seems to me to be both at the heart of photography's appeal and the wider human condition. Much of this work has been exhibited in the UK, and some published, but it only now that we are making limited edition prints available to collectors.
This is current and recent work, documenting England's east coast from Northumberland to Durham. The title image above explicitly references Chris Killip's work from the 1970s and '80s, since it was made on Lynemouth Beach, but all of these pictures reflect the fact that human interventions come and go, but the sea remains. Forever changing, yet always the same.
The title image for this sub-set of pictures, mainly made over the last 4 years, is what triggered the making of this work. The rendering of solid objects on paper is, of course, an enduring interest, but so is the sense that concrete, apparently the most durable of materials, is also affected by time, and often tide too. (The recent image of WW2 era tank defences being turned into boulders provides a kind of visual coda.)
I grew up at the end of the great age of documentary photography, and almost took up a post lecturing at a British university after graduation. But I could see that markets for the work were diminishing, and so did other jobs - although I made independent documentary projects throughout most of the earlier part of my adult life. I wish I'd made more now, but am pleased that I recovered these fragments from the moment.
I underwent a significant operation just before the UK locked down in March 2020, and since then my ability to make work has been heavily circumscribed - either by rules or by my own health concerns and anxiety. But the urge to make work and to reflect on the current situation, however obliquely, remains strong. The title image shown here explicitly references Alfred Stielglitz's Equivalents, which have fascinated me since I studied his work as a post-graduate student. But my work featuring the extraordinary skies of summer 2020 reflect an absence as much as a presence - the absence of contrails, for the first time in my life.
I started taking photographs when my dad, himself a keen photographer, gave me a 127 Box Brownie when I was 9 or 10. But throughout the bulk of my life photography has been something that I did as well as something else - journalism, film-making, writing fiction. Now it's all I do, obsessively and desperately, and here are some pictures, usually made in the documentary tradition - although I did move that Newcastle Brown bottle - that I like a lot. We hope that you do, too.
SXNE - South by North East
In the autumn of 2019 I embarked on a project - quickly put into abeyance by the Covid-19 pandemic - making pictures, both environmental portraits and performance shots, of musicians visiting Newcastle. The reason was simple: I listen to little but American music, and I've often wondered why I find their imagined world more interesting than my own. So I have begun to set about photographing them - so far Mark Mulcahy, Rod Picott and the duo Native Harrow - on my patch, and hope to add more in due course.